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Men in Black International

The ‘Men in Black’ series has always been quirky. Starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, the science fiction/comedy antics made it an audience favourite over three films. Smith and Jones aren’t involved in this 4th entry, ‘Men in Black International’ which may explain why it comes up short. Proof fourth time isn’t the charm, although It tries to have the same sense of mischievous fun. What surfaces is a mediocre sci-fi yarn that’s been done better.

In London, a new alien threat emerges. A shape-shifting alien duo called The Twins (Les Twins) are in search of a dangerous artefact. The only team that can stop them are the famed Men in Black unit. Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and new partner Agent M (Tessa Thompson) are ready to stop the otherworldly interloper. Aided by their boss High T (Liam Neeson), H and M galvanise their weapons to defeat any beasties in their well-heeled path.

‘Men in Black International’ commits the cardinal sin of being boring. The quips are there, as are the action and stupendous CGI. Missing is any vitality to the performances or script. It’s a very bland outing with director F. Gary Gray helming things with all the enthusiasm of a student at a double math lesson. Gray shows little flair in crafting anything new, with the series’ familiar tropes given yet another airing. There’s a very manufactured, tired feel – as if the franchise has run out of ideas.

None of this is the fault of the cast who do their best. Hemsworth and Thompson have genuine chemistry and put true personality into their characters. Their co-stars also get into the spirit of fun the film tries to convey. Unfortunately they are constantly undermined by poor writing with the comedic moments forced to breaking point. Given these issues, it’s amazing the pacing isn’t a problem as it moves fast enough. It’s just the energy needed to make for diverting viewing simply isn’t there.

‘Men in Black International’ is a ‘shrug your shoulders’ effort. It’s rather pointless and swiftly vanishes from the memory. Hopefully the studio involved receives the message a fifth entry isn’t needed as fresh, new ideas are always more welcome than any alien invasion.

Rating out of 10: 4

Tolkien

Films about writers can occasionally be dull affairs. Like anyone on earth, they are mere mortals who happen to create amazing worlds. That doesn’t mean their own lives were interesting with some movies taking a more fanciful approach when exploring their lives. Author J.R.R. Tolkien has proven to have an enduring fascination with readers since works such as ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ sagas were published. ‘Tolkien’ bravely dares to try to make its subject just as compelling with his ordinary life shoe-horned into the film’s over-ripe narrative.

While attending school, J.R.R. Tolkien (Nicholas Hoult) meets a group of like-minded souls including Geoffrey (Anthony Boyle), Robert (Patrick Gibson) and Christopher (Tom Glynn-Carney). They form a close bond with their passion for writing uniting them. Overseeing their progress is Professor Joseph Wright (Derek Jacobi) who sees the men grow as they face the ravages of the First World War. Amidst this turmoil, Tolkien falls for Edith (Lily Collins) who would inspire him to write his greatest works that would influence generations.

Directed by Dome Karukoski, ‘Tolkien’ is a muddled look at his life. Whilst seeing how the war and those around him influenced his work is vaguely engaging, Karukoski fails to give these scenes any life. The cast and screenplay go through the motions of ticking the boxes of Tolkien’s life without much enthusiasm. It proves not every famous person needs their own biopic. Despite being involved in the First World War, Tolkien was not living a particularly extraordinary life. His work was the amazing part about him which unfortunately is rarely touched on.

‘Tolkien’s’ low-key feel extends to the performances. Hoult has done better work elsewhere with his co-stars spouting the trite dialogue with little passion. The period settings and score bring relief to the mediocrity on display and are the film’s best moments. You don’t learn too much about him as a person that you haven’t seen in other biopics. Set within a stock-standard structure, his story under-whelms despite his overwhelming legacy to fantasy fiction.

A tired affair which arthritically comes to life on occasion, ‘Tolkien’ is drab viewing. It’s more akin to something you’d watch on a rainy afternoon when there’s nothing else to watch. Watching films based on his work would be more compelling where Tolkien’s gift for entrancing readers more evident.

Rating out of 10: 5